Tien Tan (Temple of Heaven) must be a very hated restaurant from the other Chinese places in Chinatown. It is at the end of the Chinese restaurant strip and every time that we walk down here, the touts for the other places will try and woo us with promises of free cocktails, special menus and so on. The code word, which shows that you know where the best Chinese food is and that you won’t be persuaded otherwise, is simply Tien Tan.
Bear in mind that Havana’s Chinatown looks a bit rough, a bit dirty, a bit hassled. Don’t be put off and keep walking, for, although it doesn’t enjoy a fraction of the choices of ingredients that Oriental restaurants in many other capitals have, the chefs in Barrio Chino’s small establishments work wonders with vegetables, rice, duck, pork, chicken, fruit and nuts.
Tien Tan may look the same as the other places, but it is not the same. There is a small outdoors terrace and a much larger air-conditioned area inside on a couple of levels. Try and eat outside in the summer months–there is more atmospheric. The place is run by a Chinese-Cuban couple and serves up to 130 different dishes.
The food here is excellent, delicious al dente variations on traditional themes, with lots of fresh ginger and soy, best accompanied with cold Xing Dao. Try the huge spicy soup to start and then let fly with a selection from the extensive menu. The starters are better value and give you more range: chop suey with vegetables, chicken with cashew nuts, beef, prawns–you name it, they have it, and almost all is mouth wateringly good and delivered with surprising speed.